The Importance of Communication in Business and Life

This week, I’m pleased to present an exciting, useful, and thought provoking guest blog. We are fortunate to have our summer intern, Elizabeth Rexon, write us a great article about the importance of good old fashioned communication. You will find that there is much more going on in a conversation than you may imagine.

Elizabeth tells us how this can make or break business deals, dinner dates, or a conversation with friends. She gives us a great list of pointers to help us improve our own communication skills and will help us to better understand how our daily conversations are really going. You will find that much more is happening in the course of a conversation than what is spoken…

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It’s safe to say that technology is beginning to surpass humanity.

The advancements of technology have shaped how people live their lives and communicate with one another. Technology has developed our modern society that is based upon the principals of simplicity, ease of information and instantaneous, constant contact. Unfortunately, our new way of life surrounds our smartphones, channeling individuals away from importance of traditional communication. We cannot rely on a cell phone or computer to always be our communicators. Businessmen, teachers, parents, friends, and everyone must know how to properly communicate with others in order to truly be successful.  

How do you know that your communication skills are sufficient? The answer is that you really don’t know until you have failed a few times, but from failure comes success. Learning which kind of audience you will be facing is the first important step.

A good example is that individuals from the Northern United States tend to speak faster and more direct. Here, the speed and clarity of your voice is important. However, if one brings that speedy tone down South you will not be as easily understood and ultimately respected. Southerners approach things with a slower pace and tone, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. What does this all mean? Learning your audience and knowing what they prefer and don’t prefer is vital. But there is more.

Obviously, what comes out of one’s mouth is important but the way you convey those words is equally important.  Non-verbal communication is a vague and mysterious concept. Non-verbal cues not consistent with your words can dramatically change a conversation for better or worse.

Words may be telling you one thing, but body cues could be sending the opposite message. Be conscience of your own presentation and look for these non-verbal cues in your next conversation, you’ll find there is much more happening than what is being said:

Face to face proximity – The closer someone is, the more they feel comfort or warmth towards you. The further someone is, the less they care about the situation or the person.  

Foot movement/position – Fast tapping, shifting of weight and movement of the foot most often portrays impatience, excitement, nervousness, or intimidation. A person sitting with their feet crossed at the ankles generally means they’re at ease. Also, If while standing, a person seems to keep their feet very close together, it most likely means they are working hard to appease.  

Arm position– Crossed arms usually portray a closed off mentality. While some people cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is reserved, shy and quiet. Either get to the point or adjust your presentation to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Then again, someone with their arms crossed could be hiding a stain on their shirt. 

If someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, they are generally portraying openness to what is being discussed. If their hands are on their hips, they might be waiting or impatient. If their hands are closed or clenched, they may be irritated, angry, or nervous. It is important to pick up and portray these various gestures to connect properly and send the right message. 

Eye contact– Eye contact is extremely important. Looking away shows nervousness, dishonesty, or distraction. However, if a person looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness.

Looking suspiciously generally means one is distrustful or unconvinced. If someone constantly looks down at the floor, they are probably shy or timid. Do remember that some cultures believe looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, so this could explain why someone is avoiding eye contact with you. 

Eye contact is always a good sign the person you are speaking to is confident, interested and respectful. Ultimately, one needs to be conscious of the implications of their eyes.  

Head position– Overly tilted heads are a potential sign of sympathy. Lowered heads indicate hiding something.  If their head is lowered when he or she is complimented, he may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from the other person, in disbelief, or thinking to himself or herself. 

If one lowers their head after an explanation, then they may be unsure if what was said. Depending on eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures, a cocked head generally implies confusion or curiosity. For example, think of how a dog slightly cocks its head when you make a funny noise. It is the same with humans.

Ultimately, nervous gestures and basic facial expressions (sad, happy, confused, angry, etc.) can define a person and alter the conversation dramatically. What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. Non-verbal communication, or body language, speaks volumes without uttering a word. Be aware of not only yourself and how you present yourself to others but of how other people present themselves to you.  

New technology comes and goes but communicating face to face between individuals will always be the key component to development, achievement and most importantly success.

– Elizabeth Rexon

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Elizabeth is currently enrolled in the Communication program at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. We are happy to have her for a few weeks at Precision Automation this summer and wish her the best in the continuation of her studies.

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